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Malta 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Malta

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Malta has been assessed as Level 1: Exercise normal precautions. 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Valetta does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Valetta as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Malta-specific page  for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Malta is a generally safe country that receives numerous foreign tourists on a yearly basis.

Crime Threats

Crimes of opportunity and violent crime do occur. Most street crimes are non-violent and non-confrontational and range from scams to petty theft. Theft of cell phones, computers, money, jewelry, and iPods is common. Most street criminals are unarmed and are not prone to gratuitous violence. Victims of street crime are often inattentive targets of opportunity. Women should keep purses zipped and wear the shoulder straps of bags across your chest. Keep valuables in front pockets. In 2017, crime statistics revealed that theft was the predominant criminal offense, making up just under half of the crimes committed in Malta. Assaults numbered under 900, with the peak being June, July, and August (height of tourism season).

Nationwide crime rates are higher in areas frequented by tourists to include: St. Julians, Mdina, Valletta, Floriana, Sliema, Saint Paul’s Bay, and Ta’ Xbiex.

Paceville’s draw is the nightclub and restaurant scene. This densely populated area is known for excessive alcohol consumption and the heavy-handed tactics of nightclub bouncers. Isolated incidents have been reported by foreign visitors who have been injured as a result.

  • In May 2017, a 29-year old Syrian man and a 33-year old Jordanian man were critically injured following an attack by six men in Paceville.

    There have been reported incidents of spiked drinks, leading to theft and assault. The Embassy recommends club visitors not leave drinks unattended, be aware of their belongings, especially smartphones, and avoid confrontations by departing the area should an issue present itself. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

    It is advisable to exercise caution when using any ATM. Attempt to use ATMs inside shopping malls, hotels, and banks since they are normally high-traffic areas and are monitored by security guards/cameras. Before approaching the ATM, scan the area for any suspicious persons or activity. Should anyone approach you while you are withdrawing money, immediately cancel the transaction and leave the area. Should you encounter issues while using the ATM, never accept assistance from a Good Samaritan. Avoid the vicinity of an ATM when it is being serviced. Scan the ATM for any odd or out-of-place device (especially around the area of the card reader), an altered keypad, and/or any other suspicious characteristics. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.”

    Persons living in Malta are strongly encouraged to upgrade residential security to reduce their vulnerability to residential crime. Intrusion alarms, solid perimeter barriers, perimeter lighting, telephone intercom system, and window/door grilles are all part of a comprehensive residential security program.

    Violent crime is comparatively lower than in many of Malta’s EU counterparts. Armed violence and assaults against the general public or targeting of foreigners remain uncommon. Should you be confronted by an armed individual, immediately comply, avoid making sudden movements, and do not offer any form of resistance. Any hesitation on your part could be perceived as a threat, which may result in unnecessary violence.

    Some 22 case of prostitution were documented in 2017, down from 91 events in 2016. There were 102 incidents of sexual offenses in 2107, down from 112 similar crimes in 2016. Two documented cases of human trafficking occurred in Malta in 2017:

  • On or about November 1, 2017 a 45-year old Maltese male and his partner, a 35-year old Chinese female, were charged with crimes related to his ownership of a massage parlor in Paceville.

  • On or about November 16, 2017 a 39-year-old Hungarian male and his 34-year-old Hungarian wife were charged with crimes related to keeping a brothel in their St Paul's Bay home.

    Malta witnessed 3 attacks in 2017 using Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) in the form of pipe bombs placed inside victims’ vehicles. These attacks resulted in one critically injured driver, and two deaths in the two remaining incidents. The last pipe bombing incident included the high-profile murder of journalist and blogger, Daphne Caruana Galizia. These three events were:

  • In Marsa, on January 29: killed the driver of a vehicle.

  • In Msida on February 20: seriously injured the driver of a vehicle.

  • In Bidnija on October 16: killed the driver of a vehicle.

There were also three pipe bomb attacks in 2016.

Cybersecurity Issues

Computer-related crime continues to be an area of concern for the Maltese, as cybercrimes have risen significantly from a decade ago. Malta saw fewer than 190 computer misuse crimes in 2017, in line with recent year’s figures. The Malta Information and Technology Agency publishes annually their National Cyber Security Strategy.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions vary significantly depending on their usage, illumination, state of repair, narrow alleys, and inexperienced/irresponsible drivers but are generally fair to good. One should exercise caution while traveling on older roads, particularly in smaller villages. Road conditions can and do deteriorate quickly even with small amounts of rain, creating slippery conditions. Many roads also experience washouts during heavy rains. Consequently, minor and major traffic accidents occur frequently on many roadways, and delays can last hours.

Road construction and road wear also present unique safety challenges. Most secondary roads are pocked by potholes. Vegetation can grow up to and over the edge of the road, particularly during the rainy season, causing a lack of visibility on bends and concealing hazards at the side of the road. Secondary roadways are almost always ringed by stone walls, some of which reach great height and may limit a driver’s field of vision.

The leading causes of motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents involving U.S. citizens are driver error (unfamiliar road signs, unusual driving customs/courtesies) and pedestrian hazards. The former can be directly attributed to unfamiliarity with right-side drive vehicles and practices and simple confusion by motorists driving in a foreign country. For example, double parking is illegal, but the practice is an everyday occurrence on most streets. It is common for lane traffic to stop abruptly when a delivery truck parks in a travel lane to unload cargo or when a driver places a car in reverse to reach a street-side parking space. Right-of-way and yield laws are similar to those in rural U.S. cities but can seem awkward and confusing for drivers accustomed to driving in larger metropolitan areas, particularly at roundabouts. Unless you are traveling on a priority road, vehicles coming from the directional right have the right-of-way.

The average speed limit is 60 kph (~35 mph) but drops to 30 kph in most residential areas. There are speed cameras, designated by a pictograph of a camera, throughout the island.

Traffic enforcement practices are lax, and the resulting road culture reflects a more cavalier attitude often resulting in fender benders and sometimes serious accidents. Drivers who are involved in traffic accidents should attempt to exchange insurance information with the other party and summon a traffic warden. Local law does not require that operators involved in a road traffic accident remain at the scene until police arrive to make a report if there is no personal injury or if the parameters of the accident are agreed upon by the drivers. This is especially the case in simple front-to-rear end collisions, where it is not expected the police will need to come. Drivers (and rental cars) are required to carry a “front-to-rear” collision form in their vehicle. This form can be obtained from the website of most local insurance companies.

Talking/texting on a cell phone while driving is illegal and highly inadvisable. Fines for the use of mobile devices and other infractions while driving were increased dramatically in 2016 with some reaching over 200 euros for a first offense. In December 2017, Malta implemented a penalty point system for all drivers with traffic violations.

Thieves can and do snatch valuables through open car windows. Do not get out of your car if there are suspicious looking persons nearby; instead, drive away. Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries to get your attention while you are in/near your car.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

The most common form of mass transportation is bus. Although the fleet of buses is new, schedules are somewhat unreliable, and bus drivers drive aggressively and have been involved in accidents. 

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Valetta as being a LOW-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There were no acts of indigenous or regional terrorism in Malta in 2017.

There is a continuing threat in Europe from persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorist attacks against public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructures and should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves while traveling. Exercise particular caution at holiday festivals/events. The U.S. continues to work closely with European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including from ISIS and al-Qa’ida.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Valetta as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The most common environmental hazard is heavy rain and flash flooding of low-lying roads that may become impassable with 30-45 centimeters (12-18 in) or more of standing water. Typically, roads are not well-drained. Flooding has been known to impact key infrastructure (emergency services, communications, utilities).

Critical Infrastructure

Malta has a good track record in industrial and transportation safety and follows EU guidelines. The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure is the lead agency overseeing industrial and transport safety.

Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure

Block B, Triq Francesco Buonamici,

Floriana FRN 1700, Malta, EU

Tel: +356 2292 2000

Economic Concerns

Economic espionage concerns are on par with other EU countries.

Personal Identity Concerns

Malta has undergone a rapid evolution of its LGBTIQ laws, to the point that the country regularly ranks as providing the most progressive LGBTIQ rights in Europe. The changes have been led by the government, but much of society has quickly adopted the same progressive attitude, breaking from a long history of social conservatism. Malta has extended its hate crime laws to offer protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. As of September 1, 2017, gay couples can marry under the revised Marriage Law. Statistics covering actual hate crime offenses are not specifically broken out of larger reporting; however, there is no evidence to suggest that Malta experiences prevalent issues in this regard.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug offenses numbered 310 in 2017, with possession comprising the vast majority of drug-related crime. Illegal drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and synthetic designer drugs) are available. The sale and distribution of drugs often occurs near/around nightclubs. While drug-related activity does not usually affect American tourists or business travelers, Americans should be aware that Malta has the same types of drug-related crime as those encountered in any major U.S. city. The increase in drug seizures, arrests, and drug-related crimes suggests an increase in drug use in Malta.

Larger seizures in 2017 included:

  • 500 kilograms of hashish in October

  • 11 kilograms of cocaine in June

  • 12 kilograms of heroin and 6 kilograms of cocaine in August

The government has made it a priority to arrest and prosecute offenders; persons caught trafficking narcotics can expect severe penalties and lengthy pre-trial confinement (up to or exceeding two years) if a contested trial is expected. Foreign defendants are considered a flight risk and are rarely granted bail.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

While incidents of police detention or harassment have been reported, they are not common. Should an encounter with police occur, respect and cooperation are the best ways to avoid problems. Do not do anything (physical resistance, attempts to flee) that could put personal safety at risk. U.S. citizens are advised to call American Citizens Services at the U.S. Embassy at +356-2561-4000.

Crime Victim Assistance

American tourists are encouraged to contact the local police (112) and the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services if they are involved in an accident or become the victim of a crime. Authorities often contact the U.S. Embassy regarding incidents involving American tourists.

Police: 112 or 119

Fire: 112 or 199

Ambulance: 112 or 196

U.S. Embassy Switchboard (24/7): +356-2561-4000

For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies

The Malta Police Force (MPF) is the only law enforcement agency in the country. The MPF is broken into several divisions\: Administration, Criminal investigations, Drugs, Vice/Economic Crime, Protective Services, Special Branch, Forensic Science Laboratory, and Community Policing. The police force is divided into 13 districts: 12 in Malta and one in Gozo.

While the MPF is responsible for internal security, maintaining law and order, and enforcing the law, they may be assisted by the Armed Forces of Malta if requested. The appointed Police Commissioner is under the supervision of the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security.

The Armed Forces of Malta are responsible for external defense, with an emphasis on protecting the country's territorial waters and airspace. The Commander of the Armed Forces is also under the supervision of the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security.

Medical Emergencies

The fire department and ambulance service may be reached by dialing 112. Medical facilities are above average and generally offer the standard of care available in most developed countries. There are medical clinic facilities available that provide limited, basic medical treatment and several major hospitals that offer comprehensive medical treatment.

Pharmacies carry most prescription drugs. Many drugs are available without a prescription. However, plan accordingly and bring your needed prescriptions with you. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Medilink: +356 2278 5785

Air Ambulance Services: +356 2369 6276

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Malta.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no active Country Council in Malta. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Valletta

Ta’Qali National Park

Attard, ATD 4000, Malta

Opening Hours:0800-1630, closed on American and Maltese holidays. For Consular hours and appointments, please visit the Consular Section Website.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator: +356-2561-4000

RSO, Consular, and Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) personnel can be reached through the Embassy operator.

Marine Post One: +356-2561-4150

The Embassy has a duty officer on call during non-business hours. Contact the operator or Marine Security Guard if assistance is required.

Website: http://malta.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

The Department of State main website provides access to all U.S. Embassy websites, as well as travel warnings and security alerts. U.S. citizens traveling in Malta are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.

Additional Resources

Malta Country Information Sheet